The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – What’s Important About Lenny Bruce’s Carnegie Hall Performance? – The Workprint

We explain the significance of this pivotal nod to the career of Lenny Bruce featured in Mrs. Maisel’s Season 4 finale. 

Despite a lukewarm start to this season, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel absolutely slays by its end. With Midge’s oddly parallel journey to the real-life Lenny Bruce finally coming to a head, fans finally get to see the satisfying conclusion of four seasons of will-they-won’t-they, mentor-mentee cat-stringing brought to a climactic conclusion.

*Spoilers ahead*

This is all addressed in the season finale, brought about via the relationship between Midge and Lenny Bruce. Which has oddly been a healthy and supportive force often pushing Midge (and really both of them) forward behind the scenes. The season 4 finale sees the two finally consummate their relationship the night before Bruce’s gigantic performance of Lenny Bruce at Carnegie Hall. 

For those who don’t know why that’s important

This performance, which was conducted during a packed-house snowstorm in real life, driven by the desire to see this ‘degenerate’ comic Lenny, is widely considered the greatest of the young standup’s brief career. One where his controversial topics, heavily considered a taboo, due to the comedian’s frequent arrest record and closed-off club opportunities marred often by his own offensive material, sort of is finally accepted in the grand public eye. What The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has done thus far, is shown the bright side of what in actuality was a rather tragic comic’s ‘could have the been the greatest’ type of career. And Carnegie Hall represents the moment every artist dreams of: to sell out in one of the most classical stages of NYC.

Introduced as a ‘sick’ comedian both in real life and in the show. We the audience can still see what’s happening in terms of the narrative shift towards acceptance versus reluctance capped off in the series. Tastefully, you can actually hear the beginnings of Lenny Bruce’s real-life performance redone for the TV series as much of what you see by Luke Kirby was taken from the real Lenny Bruce’s actual performance that evening. Here’s proof:

Any artist knows that Carnegie is huge. Which is why it’s important to the series, as Lenny reprimanded Midge for not taking the opener opportunity for Tony Bennet due to her only wanting to headline and never open for another act thanks to the fallout she’s had the past three seasons.

Carnegie Hall is pivotal with Lenny Bruce, as it’s sort of a metaphor of what could be, showing Midge that to be here: performing in a classic stage, you have to sacrifice and do the work. As the window is open only for a limited opportunity. 

At the heart of this has always been Midge’s stand-up story front and center. Which, felt sort of at a standstill due to Midge’s constant self-sabotaging plotlines and the constant: ‘I want to be the headliner’ toxicity that has, this season, ruined her opportunities as Midge often destroys all opportunities for the sake of having her cake and eats it too. If that isn’t enough, she also accosts the comic for his little stash of narcotics she’d found while staying at Lenny’s place. A foreshadowing event that at this moment, in Carnegie, was the high mark for the comedian. The real-life tragedy of Lenny Bruce will soon come after.

It’s a perfect device that drives the series onto its next legs: by showing what the possibilities could be for Midge. While also, sort of reminding us, that time is in fact limited – just as it was for Lenny in his final years.

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